Caregiver Strategies to Transport Your Loved One Safely

Caregiver Strategies to Transport Your Loved One Safely

Are you the family caregiver for a senior parent who is dealing with mobility issues? Maybe the pain of arthritis keeping them from moving around as they once did. Perhaps they have medical problems that resulted in having to use a wheelchair. Maybe they currently get around alright, but you know the day is coming when they will need a cane, a walker, or more.

Just as there are different levels of mobility, there are just as many ways to get around, even when it comes to transportation outside the home. 

According to the National Institutes of Health, more than one out of every three individuals over the age of 70 has issues with mobility, and almost all of those over the age of 85 have trouble getting around.1 That means that as your parent gets older, you’re likely going to encounter mobility aids not only at home, but when going out in public. This can make transportation more difficult.

The good news is that there are many solid strategies to get your parent from one place to another as safely as possible. Here’s what you need to know about making transportation easier when someone has problems with mobility.

A Note About Staying Safe

Of course, any issues with mobility make a person have a much greater fall risk. A fall alert, specifically one with fall detection technology, can help ensure that if your elderly parent does fall, they have help available immediately. That means you can run your errands, sleep well at night, and otherwise not have to worry about whether they will have the attention they need if something goes wrong.

Wearing a medical alert device is important at home, where most accidents occur. But it also matters when seniors are out and about, even when they are with you. In an emergency, seconds count!

For Easiest Transportation, Always Plan Ahead

When someone needs support to get around safely, it’s crucial to plan ahead. The days of simply jumping in the car to get to a doctor’s appointment in 15 minutes are gone. Now is the time to consider just how much help your parent needs to move around and plan accordingly.

Let’s say they use a walker to get safely from one place to another. That necessities more time, as their steps must be deliberate and sure. Plan for that extra time so that no one gets frustrated. This includes not only time at the home, going from the door to the vehicle, but the time it takes to get into the vehicle, stow the walker or other mobility device, drive to the appointment, and go through the same process in reverse.

The more significant the mobility issue, the more time you should plan into the trip.

When you schedule appointments or plan to have a social outing, consider the timing of it. Plan to schedule any outing during a time when traffic is light. If you take public transportation, pay attention to the routes to determine which time frames might be less crowded.

Choose the Right Kind of Transportation

If you are a hands-on, full-time family caregiver, choosing the right transportation might simply mean using your own vehicle. But if your parent needs to get somewhere when you’re not there, consider the transportation that is best for their situation.

For instance, those who have problems with mobility might not be able to get on and off the subway quickly enough to make it a viable option. In that case, look into public transportation that specifically caters to those with disabilities. There are buses, trains, and other transit services that have specialized seating, ramps and lifts for wheelchairs, more time built into their schedule, and certain guaranteed stops, like making the rounds at a hospital complex.

Keep in mind that these almost always have to be scheduled well in advance. They might schedule one to two weeks out, which gives you plenty of time to plan.

If you choose to go with a rideshare service like Lyft or Uber, note that the person who will be riding needs special accommodations. Many rideshares offer vehicles designed to handle the needs of those with disabilities. And those who can take a typical vehicle to their destination might need more time, which could be allowed with no extra cost as long as you schedule the ride in advance.

You can do more than get just rides from rideshare services. Places like GoGoGrandparent are designed to help the elderly with disabilities get the assistance they need.

When your parent is using rideshare or public transportation, it’s important to give them the peace of mind they need that everything will be okay. An emergency alert system with fall detection is an excellent choice to provide that security. The on-the-go options have built in GPS to pinpoint their location; if they have to call for help by pressing the panic button, the trained professionals at the monitoring center can figure out where they are and send help right to them, whether it’s on a subway platform or outside a grocery store.

Prepare for Travel with Lighter Mobility Devices

Maybe your parent has a very nice wheelchair they use at home, but it’s heavy and difficult to fold up – or doesn’t fold up at all. In that case, it’s a good idea to have a second wheelchair that is much lighter. The stripped-down version doesn’t have to be fancy or even pretty; it just has to be foldable, light enough to handle easily, and fit into the trunk of a car.

If your parent uses a walker to get around, maybe they prefer a cane (and your assistance) when they go to the doctor’s office. Only “step down” to a different mobility device if you are certain your parent will still be safe when using it, however.

No matter what lighter and easier-to-handle mobility aid you choose, make sure it is properly fitted for your parent’s use. The last thing you want is to try to make things easier with a lighter device only for them to wind up getting hurt and needing even more care than they did before the outing began! 

Invest in a Catch-All Bag

When you’re moving from one place to another with someone who has mobility issues, it’s a good idea to have all hands free – theirs and yours. That allows them to find more physical stability and allows you to help them at a moment’s notice. But what about those things you must carry with you, such as a cell phone, notebook for notes at the doctor’s office, a wallet with cash, and the like?

A catch-all bag is an excellent idea. Look for a bag that is more than a purse – something with many deep pockets and an easy-to-open clasp is ideal. Some bags are designed for use with wheelchairs or walkers and thus have a sleeve on one side that allows you to slip the bag over a handle or attach it securely to the crossbar of a walker. That means you can carry it yourself or you can attach it to whatever device your parent is using to get around.

Communication is Key

When you are planning to go somewhere with your elderly parent, make sure to communicate everything. Let them know when the appointments are and the location. Let them know the plan for getting there. In some cases this will be easy, especially if your parent is sharp of mind and gets around pretty well on their own anyway. But for those who are suffering from dementia or similar ailments, this communication might become more difficult as the years go by.  

Stay Informed to Get There on Time

Though surprises happen, you can avoid much of the hassle by paying attention well before it’s time to go. That means looking at train or subway schedules to determine if there are any delays or trains out of service, checking the weather in the hours before you leave to see if there are any storms brewing, and looking at local traffic news to decide if you need to take something other than the usual route.

Remember that when you do head out somewhere with your elderly parent, there is always the risk that you could get delayed. To that end, take what they might need in that catch-all bag, such as a few snacks, a bottle of water, and any important medication.

Look Into Home-Based Services

What happens if transportation gets too difficult or costly? There could be options that allow for the best care possible while not getting out as often. For instance, grocery delivery can allow your parent to shop for their groceries online and have them delivered right to the door. Meals on Wheels can bring them a hot meal every day, as well as a bit of social interaction.

Telehealth services can allow your parent to talk with their doctor via video chat from the comfort of home. And some programs they might be prescribed, such as physical therapy or speech therapy, could come to them if their situation means they can’t get out of the house very easily.

Take Every Safety Precaution

Whether you are the driver or you are putting your parent on public transportation, make sure that the proper safety precautions are followed. Wearing seatbelts every time you are in the vehicle, securely fastening the wheelchair on the bus, or buckling them in on the train can ensure better safety.

It’s also a good idea to use medical alert systems for seniors, no matter what transportation mode you are using to get from one place to another. Medical alert technology can come in handy in the event of any accident, even if it’s not a fall – pressing the medical alarm in the wake of a vehicle accident, for instance, will reach out to a live emergency agent at a monitoring center and allow them to send help right away. While emergency vehicles are rolling toward the scene, the friendly voice on the other end of the line will stay with your parent and talk with them until they are certain help has arrived.